Freaky Ali review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui saves this film from being a complete washout
Director Sohail Khan is also credited for the story of this film about an accidental sporting hero that has a strong resemblance to the 1996 Adam Sandler starring Happy Gilmore.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui sells underwear in a crowded market somewhere in Mumbai. He has a glib and practised sales pitch but it does not effectively translate into a successful trade. When he gets sacked, Ali’s friend Maqsood (Arbaaz Khan) lures him away from undergarments to the underworld. The duo work as protection money collectors for a two-bit, accident-prone thug called Danger Bhai (Niketen Dheer).
Shown to be nifty with the big cricketing shots, one day Ali accidentally discovers a talent for golf — or ‘gulf’ as the unschooled folks in this film pronounce it. On his very first day on the course, he also falls instantly in love with Megha (Amy Jackson) and gets insulted by the classist, arrogant reigning golf champion (Jas Arora) who challenges the “poor” man to prove his mettle in the “rich” man’s sport.
Ali’s neighbour, Kishan Lal (Asif Basra), a caddy by profession, takes the budding talent under this tutelage and hones Ali’s talent. Nearly all the best dialogues are spoken by Ali. Like this one when Kishan Lal suggests he take golf seriously: “Khelne ki umar paise kamane me nikal gaye aur kamane ki umar mien aap khelne ko bol rahe ho (My childhood, when I should have been playing games, was spent trying to earn a living and now when it’s my age to work, you want me to play games).”
In sports movies, usually training sequences are amusing and elevating while the final tournament is emotional and tense. In Sohail Khan’s comic-drama, both these opportunities are lost. Ali all too soon masters all the strokes but is not shown being schooled in the finer nuances of the sport. He slips into the tournaments with all his quirks intact and faces hardly any resistance.
But all is not well. Maqsood is tempted by a potential payday if he persuades Ali to throw his match and Jas Arora’s character displays more jewelry and facial hair than sporting spirit.
After a sudden setback and on the eve of a crucial leg of the tournament, Ali’s entire neighbourhood turns to prayer. Here’s an opportunity for the filmmaker to slip in a Sufi song as he shows the Hindu and Muslim communities at prayer on the eve of his final round, which is built up as if it’s a do-or-die final Olympic bout!
While it’s nice to see a different and less violent sport being showcased, the casting of an irritating range of characters, and terrible performances by Jackson, Arora and Dheer add to the feeling that you are walking 18 holes in the blazing sun with a heavy golf bag on your shoulder.
Though it’s called Freaky Ali, Siddiqui’s Ali is the least freaky of all the characters and his performance is the only reason this film is not a complete washout.